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      An Online Edition

edited and annotated, with an introduction by Dr. Luke A. Powers

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Thursday, May 14, 1914

[The Bronze Cannon]


     Birds, being clothed in feathers all pointing one way, do not like to be ruffled by the wind: hence, as a jinrikisha man once pointed out to a distinguished American traveler, "All birds wind-to facing sit." This fact occasionally obliges the Fireman's guests, on a breezy morning, to commit what we would consider the impoliteness of turning their backs upon him. They were sitting thus on the edge of the basin and looking down the vista of Georgia avenue, when one of their number espied the huge bronze cannon that is mounted near the apex of the Fountain's grassy triangle, and asked a question about it.

     Amongst them, assisted by the Fireman, they reconstructed the history of the piece--of its capture at Santiago and subsequent loan to Chattanooga by the United States government. None of those present had ever seen war, though familiar with the spectacle of soldiery and military evolutions in street parades. It remained for the Fireman to instruct them in the shuddering horrors of bloodshed, as well as in the grandeur of national honor and the larger economic causes for which men go to war.

     "What a strange thing to see," said the Gray Pigeon. "Yonder is a group of buildings representing some of the greatest activities of civilization--the library, three churches in view, and the Times building, not to speak of the shops; and in the foreground, half hid among greenery, this archaic survival of the age of brute force."

     The Fireman did not seem to wonder. "Many are the survivals not only displayed with pride by man, but clung to and perpetuated in daily practice. Half his customs have no basis in his daily needs or conveniences; more are used only in default of a better. Why, this iron fence around our park is a survival--"

     "It keeps the boys and the cats from bothering us," interrupted the Sparrow.

     "So does the costly machinery of a standing army, a navy and coast defenses protect the land in which we live from attack and invasion. It is the attitude behind all this which is the deplorable survival--the attitude expressed in the phrase 'natural enemies,' as applied to neighboring countries. Mankind has not yet realized that it is one--that all men are natural friends, and become enemies only by force of circumstances."

     "The world that bleeds with war will one day learn the wrong and folly of it. Ideals have already changed: men formerly gloried in warfare, and now apologize for it as they do for prisons. Armies once went forth to spoil the enemy; they now go to civilize him. Today, the conquest accomplished, the first thing thought of is not to loot, but putting the children of the conquered into school.

     "Morals," continued the Fireman, gravely, "will some time be standardized internationally, like the threads of screws and the size of bolts, so that legal machinery, like threshing and sewing machines, may become interchangeable from one country to another."

     "But, good gracious, Fireman!" cried the Sparrow, "where would they get the courage and ardor of the soldier's ideal, the hardening process of the camp, the discipline, the--why, what will they do for brave men without war?"

     "Do you think there are no brave men except in the army? I know men continue to defend war on the ground that it stirs the nobler blood and the higher imagination of mankind. Well, however much good a war may or may not do a country, there is one thing it always accomplishes, and that is an increased standing army. Soldiers do not work, but they all eat, and must be fed by the workers. War is plain destruction; to the common people it means only the garrison and the tax gatherer. Labor is productive effort; it aims to guard the output of brain and muscle, the precious bread men live by.

     "Never were industrial and military conflicts thrown into stronger relief than now, while Colorado and Mexico, side by side, are torn in strife. Never was it plainer shown that it is as great to right the wrongs of industrialism as to do battle for the honor of nations.

     ["]Any one who wishes to see a battle has only to climb the slope of Cameron hill and look over the tremendous growth of commerce and industry along the river. There is all the stress and tumult of a war against the crudeness of planetary substance, wherein the raw materials of earth are being molded into the fabric of material civilization. Our national life is founded to a large extent on our success in invention and engineering, in manufacturing and commerce. Our prosperity rests on construction in labor, not warfare.

     "Idle men may need warfare to keep up their courage and endurance, but there is no room for idle men in our city. Our thousands of farm toilers and factory operatives go through more pain and peril every year than all the soldiers in European barracks. The courage and toil of industry, when rightly undertaken, are higher than the valor of war.

     "What men need is something heroic that will speak to men as universally as war has done, yet will be compatible with their spiritual natures as war has proved itself to be incompatible. Even now they are in process of finding this moral equivalent, though it is hard to formulate. Even Napoleon, the last great exponent of the Roman tradition, no longer captures the imagination and fires the hearts of men as formerly, instead of admiration for brass buttons has come a concern for human welfare. Instead of love of conquest, a universal determination to conquer poverty and disease.

     "Why should they turn back to borrow the ideals of a bygone era when more splendid ones are at hand?

     "Revenge was once spoken of as 'the noble passion' par excellence. Today it is a mean, even a ridiculous, thing, below even melodrama--fallen even to Sunday supplements and feuds of a few ignorant backwoodsmen. It is my belief that the process of extinquishing war, as compared to the gradual limiting of revenge, will be swift--a sudden awakening, as the day dawns when over all the earth virile good will shall [sic] take the place of the spirit of conflict."

 




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